Runner’s Knee: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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runner's kneeA runner’s knee condition is just as the name suggests—it’s a very common knee injury among runners. It affects the functioning of the knee based mainly on the conditioning of the quadriceps and hamstring.

It is also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). Running is a popular sport and mental therapy for many people. It is also a leading cause of irritation and damage to the interior kneecap.

The runner’s knee symptoms present as severe pain and a loss of range of motion once the run is done. We will take a closer look at how this condition develops with runner’s knee causes and the most effective runner’s knee treatment.

Symptoms of Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee pain can affect either knee as can any of the accompanying symptoms. It may also begin in the hip area or in the back before showing up in the knee. This is known as referred pain. Runner’s knee is prevalent in young runners and seems to affect more women than men. The British Journal of Sports Medicine attributes this disparity to the female body’s wider hip stance to the thighbone, which attaches to the knee, adding excessive stress to the kneecap. Common symptoms that may be seen in both men and women include:

1. Pain in Front of the Knee

The patella and the femoral groove can become misaligned and cause severe pain on the sides of the knee while bending. This can present as a dull ache when at rest.

2. Knee Crepitus

It produces a sound that seems worse than it actually is, as you will hear a crunching or a grinding noise when moving from rest to a moving position. The knee crepitus condition may be alleviated over time.

3. Motion Pain

Upon movement, whether moving the knee up and down or simply walking, pain may dominate symptoms. This can be seen with squatting, kneeling, running, descending or climbing stairs, and rising from a sitting to standing position. You may have progressive pain, creaking noises, and friction that can be reduced when at rest.

4. Knee Swelling

Referred to as water on the knee, this condition sees inflammation gather in the front of the knee. This swelling may cause tenderness, soreness, and a reduced mobility range.

5. Stiffness

During runner’s knee, rest is advisable, but there can be stiffness after a time of not moving the knee. This can even happen after sitting for a prolonged time period or while riding in a vehicle with the knee bent.

What Are the Causes of Runner’s Knee?

With a misalignment of the adjoining bones, a runner’s knee condition can occur from frequent and repetitive movement. It can also be seen with issues of the feet, legs, and thighs.

  • Overuse of the knee joint with constant bending or exercise
  • Direct blunt force from a fall, hit, or auto or sports accident
  • Misalignment of kneecap or leg bones
  • Foot problems such as fallen arches, hypermobile feet, or overpronation
  • Weakened thigh muscles
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Torn cartilage from friction
  • Strained tendons
  • Arthritis
  • Improper pre-exercise stretching

Best Treatment for Runner’s Knee

The condition of runner’s knee may require some medical attention and possibly even knee surgery. For the minor cases, there are natural home remedies you can try to alleviate the pain and discomfort of the condition.


The first go-to treatment for any form of injury or trauma without the presence of blood is RICE.

2. Rest

Rest the knee and adjoining bones and tissue to prevent further damage. This can also help alleviate pain and swelling that make become progressively worse with movement. Avoid placing stress on the knee with repetitive activities such as lunging, squatting, running, and even sitting and standing for long periods of time.

3. Ice

Ice the knee with an ice pack or compress for 20- to 30-minute intervals every three to four hours for the first 48 hours. This may help treat the pain as it reduces the swelling.

4. Compression

Compression is the primary way to prevent increased swelling. Be sure to avoid wrapping the knee too tight.

5. Elevation

Elevation is essential to prevent swelling and promote blood circulation. The knee should be lifted above the level of the heart.

While runner’s knee may be a common condition among athletes and avid runners, there are steps to take to try to prevent the condition.

  • Keep Fit – Maintain a healthy lifestyle by participating in physical activity. It doesn’t have to be running or hard contact sports. You may enjoy walking, swimming, cycling, or cardio exercises.
  • Stretch – Do stretching exercises before any physical activity, especially running. Stretching the muscles and tissues can prevent damage by straining.
  • Strength Training – Do strength-training exercises to prevent the quadriceps from pulling and straining too much. You should always increase the intensity and timing of any training routine in small, short intervals.
  • Proper Footwear – Use the proper footwear in accordance to the physical activity to prevent sprain or strain of the muscles. Invest in shoes with shock absorption and ensure proper fit.
  • Orthotics Use – Fallen arches or other foot problems may require specialized support with orthotics made for your footwear.
  • Knee Device – Some runners benefit with the use of a device aid. A runner’s knee brace may be used in stead of taping the knee after a run.
  • Exercise Posture – Use proper positioning and posture for the activity involved. When running, ensure you bend at the knees and lean forward slightly to relieve stress of bodyweight on knees. Run or walk on a smooth surface and avoid running on concrete material.

Runner’s knee is a common condition among athletes, especially runners and joggers. It is also seen in professional positions that call for repetitive bending of the knees such as when sitting at a desk. Most cases appear during the middle-age years after the knee joint has been irritated by overuse. The pain and swelling are the most common signs of runner’s knee. Severe cases may need surgical repair, while the majority of patients can follow home remedies as a treatment. Excessive use of the knees may be unavoidable, so taking precautions to prevent damage is important.

Read more:

Knee Pain when Bending: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention Tips

Should I Be Worried about My Knee Clicking?

“Runner’s Knee,” Runner’s World;, last accessed June 19, 2017.
Khadavi, M., “Symptoms Of Runner’s Knee,” Sports Health January 20, 2016;, last accessed June 19, 2017.